Weak Words

By Suzanne Hartmann

Part of the Top Ten Mistakes New Fiction Writers Make series

Weak Words
Definition = words that weaken your writing or are vague. They often tell something rather than showing it.

Wimpy Verbs
Verbs that describe generic action. Words like walked, talked, took, and looked are weak verbs. They can be replaced by a multitude of more descriptive verbs.

1) He walked across the parking lot.
2) He took the keys.
3) She looked at him.

Correction =
Use strong verbs that are as specific and descriptive as possible.
walked = strolled, ambled, hobbled, stomped, flitted, patrolled
took = scooped up, seized, wrenched, grabbed, swiped
looked = glared, ogled, surveyed, glanced, watched, studied
Each of the above replacements creates a very vivid picture of the person’s actions.

Adverbs with Wimpy Verbs
Adverbs are often paired with wimpy verbs. They tell readers something about the action rather than showing it with strong, descriptive words.

1) He walked slowly towards the door.
“Slowly” tells how he walked. A more specific verb would paint a picture of how he walked.
2) “You’re mean,” she said angrily.
“Angrily” tells us how she spoke. This could better be shown to the reader by describing action as she spoke, or perhaps by describing the emotions inside her.

Correction =
1) He trudged towards the door.
2) “You’re mean.” She balled her hands into fists to hide the tremble of anger that shook her entire body.
The second sentence does a much better job of showing both what the character did and what she felt than the adverb “angrily”.

Vague Writing
Words that give the reader a broad idea of what the writer means, but don’t paint a vivid picture.

Examples and Correction
crowd = crowd of a hundred well-dressed people
car = Toyota Camry
building = cottage
tall = six-foot-four
flowers = daffodils
dog = poodle
Each specific, descriptive noun above paints a specific picture in the reader’s mind.

Why you should avoid weak words =
1) They weaken your writing.
2) They minimize the action.
3) They aren’t specific enough to allow the reader to completely visualize the scene or action
4) They tell readers something rather than showing it.


Suzanne Hartmann is the author of PERIL: Fast Track Thriller #1, which released from OakTara recently, , and Write This Way: Take Your Writing to a New Level, a blueprint for new authors to guide them through the process of writing and revising a novel.

Suzanne is a homeschool mom and lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and three children. When not homeschooling or writing, she enjoys scrapbooking, reading, and Bible study. On the editorial side, she is a contributing editor with Port Yonder Press and operates the Write This Way Critique Service.

LINKS for PERIL: Amazon Christian Book Distributor

Fast Track Thrillers: http://fasttrackthrillers.blogspot.com

LINK for Write This Way: Write This Way Blog: http://suzanne-hartmann2.blogspot.com/2007/01/write-this-way-take-your-writing-to-new.html

LINKS for Suzanne:

Facebook – Suzanne Hartmann – Author

Twitter – @SuzInIL

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